What’s the number one thing we as consumers can do to make the most difference for people and planet? Intentionally choose where we bank.
After assessing thousands of companies, The Better World Shopping Guide* ranks changing where we bank as the number one consumer decision we can make to contribute to a better world. Who knew where we bank could be so important? Perhaps even more important than where the closest ATM is.
And it’s a step that anyone with a bank account can take.
Why does where we bank matter so much?
The mega-banks that hold the most financial power wield that power solely for maximum profit. Their “too big to fail” status creates instability in the financial system, as we experienced in the financial crisis of 2008-09. They devote significant resources to speculative trading and hold too much power in political and regulatory systems. And at a more fundamental level, “the larger the lender, the smaller the percentage of small business loans in the bank’s loan portfolio,” according to the Small Business Administration.
Better, smaller banks wield their power in ways that build communities. Small and regional banks provide more than half of small business lending while controlling only about one-fifth of all banking assets. Small business lending becomes day care centers, local restaurants, craftspeople, retailers and service providers, which translate into local jobs and a high quality of community life. Their primary activity is turning deposits into loans and other productive investments, rather than speculative trading. Their decision-making is local, grounded in community needs and interests.
To be fair, the mega-banks also do some good things, employ some great people, and offer many customers products they like and need. The question is not whether mega-banks are terrible. The question is who do you want to wield the power of your dollars? Do you want your deposits used in your own community or a corporate headquarters across the country? To create local jobs or to create only profits? These are the choices we make by intentionally choosing where to bank.
The team at Just Money Advisors has been talking about the impact of community banking for years and has launched an initiative called Better Banking Options to gather and share information and encouragement for people who want to choose a better bank. The project’s website is at www.betterbankingoptions.com.
*Better World Shopping Guide by Ellis Jones. New Society Publishers, 2017.